The hottest topic today among the parents of school-going children, especially those in high school is related to stress relief.
Stress is a healthy and natural component of life but when it interferes with your routine, it is time to take action and restore the balance. You can recognize stress through various symptoms such as fatigue, sweating, nose blocks, an inexplicable thirst, tired muscles that refuse to cooperate…all this causes your blood to thicken and increases your risk for a heart attack.
Can you overcome stress?
Luckily, there are many instant ways to overcome stress and it is as simple as making lifestyle changes. Coping strategies involve a strong support system, relaxation, exercise, and a positive mental attitude – all of which help keep that balance.
With children, stress manifests in the form of listlessness, a tendency to be cranky, sometimes a loss of appetite leading to all sorts of imagined ailments. Their performance in school drops, they become withdrawn and disinterested in everything. Now obviously not going to school or refusing to eat will not resolve the situation.
We all want our children to be happy, active, and enjoy life. And the good news is, as parents or guardians of children, we can easily ensure that stress does not overtake their lives.
How can we, as parents, help our children stay stress-free?
Just being present in a mindful way in our children’s lives makes a big difference. So does listening and spending family time together. In our house, we are raising a happy teenager in an atmosphere of love and affection. I recently realized that our son, like me, works best fueled by the pressure within him. That’s healthy. He sets high standards for himself and works hard towards them. And we consider it our responsibility to make sure he doesn’t get stressed by spending time with him.
His favorite ways to bust stress are through his hobbies – sketching, singing, listening to music, reading, and enjoying time together as a family, besides spending time with friends. We also encourage him to meditate – and he has found his happy way by sitting for 30 minutes and reciting prayers. It has a visible calming effect on that busy mind.
The thing with children is, most of the time they hesitate to share what goes on in their minds for fear of being ridiculed. It is up to the family to draw them out, make them feel loved, and respect their feelings, letting them know they are worthy good human beings, and capable of achieving their dreams.
Helping Children Stay Stress-Free
Today, more than ever before, children are subject to a lot of pressure – peer pressure, performance pressure and of course, pressure from within to keep up with all they have to do. They set their own high standards for themselves, thanks to the competitive environment in which they grow up. Even 96 out of 100 percent is a low score when it comes to competing for all those entrance tests after Class X. Oh yes, the pressure is on in my household too.
I was talking to one of my son’s classmate’s mothers and she was telling me how her daughter had the inherent need to excel in everything she did. Added to this, the desperation to maintain fitness, get high/full marks, and so on. All this stems from the fear of not fitting in. As they tackle their own inner devils, they have other pressures – related to school. Much of it comes from parents, egging on their kids to achieve, achieve, achieve so that they can live up to their dreams. The parents’ dreams, sometimes, and not the children’s. This literally freaks the kids out and impacts everything they do.
Today, my son, who is a talented artist, was worried he couldn’t get a particular face right. From his imagination, on to the paper. Being the rather laid-back Mom that I am – I explained that some days are like that – and he could always have a go at it tomorrow. The face he had drawn looked pretty good to me. But it did not live up to his expectations. I reminded him he had done a lot for the day and told him to ease off and relax. Sometimes that is not the ideal thing to say, as it only gets them more stressed.
How to help them relieve this pressure and stop it from growing worse?
It is important to ensure that children are emotionally and physically healthy. Some great ways are music, sports, and exercise, a hobby, or fun time with friends and family. Here is what we practice in our home:
1. Mealtimes together
We make it a point to have breakfast and dinner together. Lunch is a packed meal, usually. We also prepare the meal together sometimes and have a good time chatting about our day. This is a pleasant way to keep ourselves in a happy mood and encourage our son to express himself and lighten up after he is through with his schoolwork.
2. Getting enough sleep
With all that there is to do, the tendency to stay up late can easily become a habit. Getting enough sleep is important to stay healthy. And children need adequate sleep, especially teens. Regular bedtime, lights out and wake-up times go a long way in ensuring this. The day looks so much brighter when we’re rested.
3. Be a friend
Teenagers need someone they feel comfortable with. As I grew up, my Mom was my favorite person when I needed a confidant or just to rave and rant. Sometimes, when the going is tough, talking about it is a big relief. I am glad that both my husband and I have a good relationship with my son and he is comfortable talking to either of us.
4. Encourage free time
It is not necessary to do something “productive” all the time. Just lazing for a while can be a great way to de-stress. Watching a movie, hanging out with friends, singing, playing music, or simply listening to music can all be ways to unwind and relax.
5. Helping, volunteering
Doing things for others is a fantastic way to get rid of stress. No need to be an expert at something. It also takes the focus away from self while bringing on a sense of feel-good, which naturally leads to a good mood. Some ways my son does these are helping an elderly neighbor with something or spending time with them, reading to them, teaching younger kids, etc.
I am lucky to have a tactile and affectionate son – and cannot emphasize enough how important it is to make teenagers feel loved – and know they’re loveable. While I am all for doing well at school and stuff, I think it is just as important to take time off. Ultimately, all parents want their children to be happy no matter how old they are. And luckily, we don’t have to try too hard to be happy!
What strategies do you recommend for children to stay stress-free?
Relax. It is not so hard. Life looks a lot brighter when you’re alive. Truth.